Fire claim denial was made in bad faith, policy holder claims

Steve Gonzalez Jul. 26, 2005, 9:09am

Larry Tolley of Belleville filed suit against Country Casualty Insurance claiming the insurer's fire claim denial was unjust, unreasonable and made in bad faith.

In a suit filed July 14 in St. Clair County Circuit Court, Tolley claims that on Dec. 15, 2003, a fire destroyed his home at 506 Kansas in Belleville along with a significant portion of his personal property.

According to Tolley, he has reasonably cooperated with Country’s adjusters, investigators and counsel and had paid all his premiums. He was notified April 19 that Country was denying his personal property loss completely.

“The denial was made in bad faith and was made with the intent that Country hold onto its money (it in fact owes Tolley) as long as possible,” the complaint states.

Tolley claims Country accused him of concealing the fact that he filed bankruptcy, which he denies. He also claims Country accused him of destroying the charred remains of his personal property. However, Tolley claims he only did so after the insurance company photographed the remains and had the chance to inspect the fire scene.

In the suit, Tolley also alleges that Countty accused him of misconduct that has nothing to do with his fire claim.

He claims that Country could have paid him for part of his loss, and then litigated the remaining issues, but instead acted in bad faith by denying 100 percent of his fire claim.

Tolley claims Country breached its contract by finding him at fault for failing to produce receipts when it knew they were burned in the fire, unjustly refusing to pay the claim and refusing to file a declaratory judgment action against him, in order to try to obtain the court’s permission to lawfully deny his claims.

According to the complaint, Country’s attorney also illegally gave Tolley unsolicited legal advice to drop his fire claim and that Country had a conflict in giving Tolley legal advice.

Tolley is seeking compensatory damages against Country for $36,000 plus costs of the suit and a $25,000 penalty under the Illinois Insurance Code and attorney fees.

Tolley is represented by Eric Rhein of Belleville.

05 L 416 (20th Circuit)

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